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India opposition leader Rahul Gandhi takes a dig at Modi over China in US visit

China and India have been uneasy neighbors for decades following a war on their disputed Himalayan frontier in the early 1960s.

Reuters
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In this handout photo taken on Oct 12, 2019, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanges gifts with China's President Xi Jinping in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu state. Photo: AFP
In this handout photo taken on Oct 12, 2019, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanges gifts with China's President Xi Jinping in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu state. Photo: AFP

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of relations with China, saying Beijing was "occupying our territory," while also taking a dig at the Hindu nationalist leader over the country's religious polarization.

"The fact of the matter is China is occupying our territory. It's an accepted fact," Gandhi, who belongs to the opposition Congress party, said in remarks at The National Press Club in a visit to Washington.

"It's absolutely unacceptable. Prime Minister seems to believe otherwise."

India's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gandhi's trip comes weeks ahead of Modi's scheduled US visit later this month.

China and India have been uneasy neighbors for decades following a war on their disputed Himalayan frontier in the early 1960s.

After deadly border clashes in 2020 that killed 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops, China this year ramped up tension by renaming 11 locations in India's eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls southern Tibet and claims as its territory. India has rejected and denied those claims.

Separately, Gandhi blamed Modi for India's religious polarization, saying Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not inclusive.

"They sort of generate a certain amount of hatred in society, they polarize society and they are not inclusive. They don't embrace everybody, and they divide society," Gandhi said.

The BJP denies the allegations and says its policies are aimed at the welfare and development of all Indians.

Gandhi also accused the BJP of "capture of institutions" and "capture of the press" in India. Since Modi came to power in 2014, India has slid from 140th in World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, to 161st this year, its lowest ever.

The BJP denies institutional compromise and says its governance abides by the rule of law.

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